Hurling inter county championship Oct 25, 2020 10:09:11 GMT via mobile
Post by Mickmack on Oct 25, 2020 10:09:11 GMT
Better late than never for hurling's boys of autumn
October 25 2020 02:30 AM
Croke PARK, the GAA's main cathedral built for the masses, looked a ghostly and deserted place devoid of worshippers yesterday as Dublin and Laois launched the 2020 All-Ireland hurling championship - the empty stadium echoing to the sounds of leather popping off ash and players' voices normally drowned in the crowd noise.
Dublin swept into the Leinster semi-final where they will return to Jones' Road for a meeting with Kilkenny next Saturday, part of a double-header also featuring Galway and Wexford. They won 2-31 to 0-23, the goals coming from top scorer Donal Burke, who finished with 1-16, and Eamonn Dillon, his strike arriving in the final seconds. But 0-23 is a sobering concession with Kilkenny a week away.
Before the game got underway we had a national anthem that for once couldn't be but impeccably observed, the final line untroubled by the cries of followers imploring their side one last time before throw-in. Instead that audience watched from afar in disparate sitting rooms around the country.
The players ran on just over 20 minutes from the throw-in. They made their entrances, around a minute apart, to the usual drum roll and the deathly silence that greeted this moment was probably the most palpable and striking sign of the times.
Once the game started you could hear the thud of bodies colliding as they formally cut the ribbon on the 2020 championship - late, if better late than never.
Last summer Mattie Kenny's men had barely pumped the final traces of adrenaline from their system after eliminating Galway in an epic victory in Parnell Park when they were sent packing by Laois two weeks later in Portlaoise. It was a shock.
Laois came from the long grass but looked completely at home in the short version and were full value for their victory. A respectable All-Ireland quarter-final defeat by Tipperary rounded off a fine debut season for manager Eddie Brennan, also featuring a McDonagh Cup win which earned them a return to the Leinster Championship.
But that difficult second album trick has been made even more fraught by preparations impaired by Covid-19, the loss of some key players, and having to face the side they traumatised last year. One with an entirely different mindset and a score to settle.
Burke was their star player, his free taking finally failing him with an underhit attempt in the 62nd minute, but Laois made them work hard in the opening quarter and managed to reduce the Dublin lead to six points entering the final water break with goalkeeper Enda Rowland hitting two long range frees. Conor Burke made a smart debut for the winners. Laois failed to create a single goal chance. They head on to the qualifiers and the prospect of a short-lived season.
The Dublin 26 saw no place for veteran Conal Keaney, star of last year's win over Galway, nor David Treacy nor Paul Ryan. The omission of Dillon from the starting XV was also a surprise, with claims that it related to him turning out in a club football match. Chris Crummey started centre forward and had a fine first half and finished with three points before being withdrawn.
Dublin led 1-16 to 0-12 at half-time with Donal Burke applying a tidy goal finish after a piercing run. Whenever Laois made ground Dublin were able to widen the gap and pull clear. But they know they face an immeasurably bigger test next weekend against Brian Cody's side, one of the championship favourites.
The hurling action moves on to Thurles this afternoon where rivals Clare and Limerick meet in the Munster quarter-finals. It's strange, it's not the same, but it's on. There is much more to look forward to.